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Defending life from the moment of conception

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weekly update, 5 to 11 April

11 April 2007

weekly update, 5 to 11 April The highest court with jurisdiction over the United Kingdom has ruled that a woman may not use frozen embryos created by IVF after her former partner withdrew consent. The grand chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, ruled against Ms Natallie Evans, 35, of Wiltshire who was found to have ovarian cancer in 2001. She and Mr Howard Johnston, the embryos' father, separated the following year. [BBC, 10 April ] John Smeaton, SPUC national director, said: "The decision highlights the absurdity and tragedy of UK legislation which permits in vitro fertilisation for various purposes. Human embryos who are, in reality, tiny human persons are reduced to the level of mere commodities - to be frozen or destroyed or used in destructive experiments, or implanted in a womb with a view to living a full and natural life - all at the discretion of scientists or lawyers or parents or others." [SPUC, 10 April ] Mr Johnston called the ruling "common sense" and said: "It's really a point of principle. I want to choose who, with and when I start a family and the process that we were involved in was around us doing that ... I hope [Ms Evans] is now able to find happiness though other means. There are options open to her that don't involve me." [BBC, 10 April ] Ms Evans said: "I am distraught at the court's decision today. It's very hard for me to accept that the embryos will now be destroyed and that I will never become a mother." [Metro, 10 April ] The British government's suggestion that it might restrict the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos has been attacked by MPs. The science and technology select committee have called for licensing and have said that a ban may encourage scientists to leave the UK. Phil Willis, chairman of the committee, called the issue "a test of the government's commitment to science." A letter to the Prime Minister has also been sent by 223 medical charities and patient groups urging him to reconsider allowing such research. [BBC, 5 April ] The British Medical Association (BMA) has supported the call to allow cloning human DNA in animal ova. Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's Head of Science and Ethics, said the law already prevents such embryos being placed in the womb, and that the UK had a "robust" regulatory system, so it should be permitted, "with strict controls." [Medical News Today, 4 April ] The Royal Society and other scientific organisations have also called on the government to permit the creation of hybrid embryos. Sir Richard Gardner, chairman of the society's stem cell working group, said: "The technique to create human-animal cytoplasmic hybrids ... has only emerged in the past five years. We do not know what possibilities might emerge in the next five years so it is vital that new legislation can accommodate scientific breakthroughs." [Independent, 5 April ] Paul Tully, SPUC General Secretary, commented: "It dilutes the dignity and status of the human person to use our genetic material to produce embryos whose humanity is uncertain. The Science and Technology committee argue that such embryos should be compulsorily killed before 15 days development, as if to underline the ethical misgivings at what they are demanding." The Bio-ethics Committee of the Catholic bishops of Britain and Ireland has welcomed a recent scientific breakthrough that uses adult stem cells to treat heart disease. Researchers led by Sir Magdi Yacoub at Imperial College London have succeeded in growing part of a human heart from bone marrow stem cells. Fr. Paul Murray, the committee chairman, said: "This development vindicates the consistently held position of the Church, of Catholic ethicists and many other experts in the field who have always maintained that the greatest potential for actual cures lay with adult rather than embryonic stem cells." [CNA on EWTN, 4 April ] The family of a pregnant British woman who was killed by a dangerous driver have called for the law to be changed so that the killers of unborn children can be prosecuted. Sarah Hunt, 28, was seven months pregnant with a son, whom she planned to call Connor, when she was knocked down and killed on a Birmingham road. Her nine-year-old son Kieran who was with her was also killed and her seven-year-old son Ryan suffered multiple injuries. The driver, Raja Ibrer Faisel, 19, has been jailed for seven years and banned from driving for five years. Relatives of Ms Hunt have launched an online petition to the Prime Minister to recognise crimes against unborn children. Her partner, Michael Dwyer, said: "If Sarah had gone into labour when she was seven months pregnant there is a chance Connor would have survived, so why was his life not treated as that, a life? It just doesn't seem right. Nothing will ever change what's happened, but I will feel some justice has been done if I can change the law and make sure other killers of unborn babies are prosecuted." [Birmingham Mail, 10 April ]

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